Villains: Probing the darkest waters of evil


David C. Cassidy

continues exploring how and why authors love to create villains, and how audiences respond.

villians-the darkest waters of human evil“Conscience is the window of our spirit, evil is the curtain.”
—Douglas Horton

Brikker burned her eye. Stepping out of the light from the overhead lamp and into the shadows, he moved to the camera, admiring his handiwork. The screaming would go on and on, an annoyance he had learned to live with as part of the job, and so he worked efficiently, almost effortlessly, loading film as required, clicking the shutter several times during this bothersome but still-useful downtime, catching unique moments of suffering he would later develop and reflect upon, all the while savouring the very cigarette that had provided this opportunity. He waited patiently for the coming silence, and then it came, just like that, storm to calm in an instant, as if the woman’s mind had suddenly snapped from the agony. It was always the same.

Of all the villainous characters in my books—and there are some truly vile ones that even I love to hate—perhaps the most detestable of them all is Brikker, the brilliant but sadistic scientist in my time-travel thriller, Velvet Rain. Brikker is to evil as Clark Kent is to Mr. Nice Guy. Peanut butter is to jam as . . . you get the picture.

Where do villains come from?

Velvet Rain has one of the most evil villains of all


Brikker is the fictional equivalent of Josef Mengele. I’d be lying if I said that the real-life “Angel of Death” didn’t inspire me as I explored the darkness that burns within Brikker. He’s cold. Logical. Laser-focused. There isn’t an ounce of remorse in his make-up. On the flip side, despite being blessed with an out-of-this-world power that fuels his madness, he is not without flaw or frailty; he can be defeated by the one man he seeks to possess and control, and he knows it. For all his inhuman traits, he is very human, very vulnerable, indeed.

What can I say? Writing him was F.U.N. Diving as deeply as I could into the darkest waters of human evil, I discovered things that were genuinely disturbing. To reveal how base one can sink—and not blink an eye—was at times titillating, at times distressing. There were many moments when I thought, “No way I can keep this in the book.”

But I did.

About Velvet Rain

A mysterious drifter, Kain Richards is the last of his kind–and a man on the run. Once a tortured prisoner and pawn in a deadly experiment, his freedom hangs in the balance against the relentless pursuit from an obsessed and brutal madman who will stop at nothing to possess him. So when Kain falls for a beautiful and sensible Iowa farmwoman, his very presence puts their lives in peril. A tragic accident forces his hand, and his astonishing secret—and godlike power—threatens not only his life and the woman he loves, but the fate of the entire world. 

Bestselling author David C. CassidyDavid C. Cassidy

is an author, photographer, graphic designer and a half-decent juggler. He spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.

David lives and plays in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and workouts, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.

Get to know more about David C. Cassidy and his books at:

And follow him on Twitter @DavidCCassidy.



Writing unforgettable villains


By Toby Neal

Batman villains: The Penguin, The Riddler, The Joker 1967

Public domain image. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Crime writing is fun—and the most fun is dreaming up evil characters who do unspeakable things! Without good villains, the mystery genre would be dead. These deviants drive the plots!

As a former therapist in the psychology field, I have a bit of an advantage in creating bad guys and gals who exemplify the worst of the human race—and showing them in a way that’s believable because its based in an understanding of the human psyche. The best villains are shades of gray, spookily relatable because they are us … in the right situation and circumstance.

Bestselling Hawaii mystery Torch GingerA good villain teaches us something about the world, other humans, and most thought-provoking of all, about ourselves. What would we do, given the situation, circumstances and background of the villain in the story? Some part of us wonders if we’d be much different.

My best villains

I’ve written a serial killer with social anxiety and schizophrenia (Torch Ginger). I’ve written a sadistic gangster villain (Wired In). I’ve written a heroic bandit who stole from the rich to give to the homeless (Broken Ferns) and I’ve written a sociopathic identity thief who falls in love with a ruthless gangster (Black Jasmine.) I’ve written 20 mystery/thrillers, and every one of them needed a villain to drive the story—so I have a special soft spot for them. So many villains, so little time!

My favorite villains have been women. Women, statistically, commit less than a fourth of the violent crime (or any crime, really) than men. But when a woman goes bad? Truly bad? She can wreak a swath of havoc a mile wide, leaving nothing but rubble, ash and broken hearts in her wake.

bestselling Paradise Crime boxed setMy current favorite villainess is Pim Wat Smithson, mother of Sophie Ang, heroine of the Paradise Crime Series. Pim Wat is supposedly institutionalized as a catatonic depressive in Thailand. But really, all the years she was supposedly having a lie-down with a cold cloth on her forehead, Pim Wat was traveling the world, killing people as an assassin.

Pim Wat is a consummate actress, deadly as a viper, and completely narcissistic. She loves what she does and “scripts” her kills, with costumes, dialogue, and little theatrical flourishes. That she is the mother of Sophie, a character we’ve come to know as heroic, dedicated, and self sacrificing, is a wonderful juxtaposition that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings.

Toby Neal

After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, Toby returned to the Hawai’ian Islands where she was born. have been home for the last fifteen years. Her career as a mental health therapist has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books.

Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography, and hiking.

 Get to know her on:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.


Characters we love to hate: Bestselling authors talk about villains


J.J. at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons.

We admit it: authors love creating villains, the characters readers love to hate. It’s a lot of fun! Over the next couple of weeks, some of your favorite bestselling author s will reveal the secrets behind the nastiest, creepiest, meanest and scariest people you’ll be lucky to find only between the covers of books.

This week, mystery author Gae-Lynn Woods and paranormal-romance-fantasy author Samreen Ahsan dish about the evil.

Which villainous character did you have most fun writing about?

Gae-Lynn Woods: The first character that popped into my mind when I heard this question was not one of my murderers or even one of the all around baddies in Forney County. It was a police officer named Hugo Petchard, and funnily enough, he’s the character people tell me they most love to hate!

Samreen Ahsan: Villains play a major role in any story, both in books and movies. If there is no villain, then we don’t see the importance of hero as well. In my books, villains are as important as main characters. I show my villains as more powerful than my main character. The hero doesn’t have to win against the villain all the time.

So far, the villainous character I enjoyed writing most is King Stefan from Once Upon A [Stolen] Time. He is a manipulative, mean and self-centered person who wants to break down his son to make a diabolical copy of himself.

How did you make him detestable?

Gae-Lynn Woods: Hugo Petchard is an absolute snot. Despite the grand name of Hugo, he’s small in stature, which bothers him mightily. Petchard is in his job because his daddy has money and the Forney County Sheriff owes Daddy for making significant campaign contributions. Deep down, Petchard suspects that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a real police officer, and that unacknowledged insecurity makes him show off in ways that inevitably lead to embarrassment for himself, his fellow officers, and occasionally the entire sheriff’s department.

Samreen Ahsan: King Stefan wants his son to be as ruthless as himself, not being able to love at all. As the [Stolen] series advances (coming soon), his character grows darker and darker, until my readers would hate him so much that they’d wish to kill him. But that’s not just the end. He will be there till the last book of [Stolen] series until everything around him is destroyed, including his son and his lover.

Why was it so much fun writing about him?

Gae-Lynn Woods: Hugo Petchard is the kind of person we’ve all worked with who thinks he’s more important / intelligent / better looking / funnier / and all around sexier than he really is. He’s that co-worker the boss tolerates despite his incompetence, that one person the boss refuses to fire. It’s a blast to put him in positions where he has the potential to succeed, but because he can’t contain his ego, he ends up falling on his face. It’s also fun to put the Forney County Sheriff in the position of having to defend Petchard’s stupidity to keep the campaign dollars flowing.

Samreen Ahsan: My villain is always more powerful than the hero in my books. They control minds, they hold more power and they have the ability to create destruction for all the main characters. I loved writing him in installments as he became more ruthless and vicious as you read further.

Which book is this villainous character in?

Gae-Lynn Woods: Petchard appears in The Devil of Light, Avengers of Blood and A Case of Sour Grapes, and you can bet he’ll worm his way into the novel I’m working on now.

Samreen Ahsan: Readers already have a glimpse of this cruel character in first book of the series, Once Upon a [Stolen] Time, and he will appear in the next volume,

Gae-Lynn Woods

Author of three mysteries featuring Forney County police detective Cass Elliott, bestselling author Gae-Lynn Woods makes her home on a ranch in East Texas, with her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey. When she’s not busy being a ranch hand or roadie, she’s working on the next Cass Elliot mystery and the next companion novel featuring Cass’ best friend, Maxine Leverman.

Get to know more about Gae-Lynn on her BestSelling Reads author page. You can also find her at Amazon, or her own website.

Samreen Ahsan

Since childhood, bestselling author Samreen has been into reading and writing—which can’t happen without imagination. Her Prayer Series, A Silent Prayer and A Prayer Heeded, have won numerous awards from critics and readers in North America and Europe. Samreen is hard at work on her new [Stolen] series from her home in Toronto, Canada.

Visit her Bestselling Reads page to get to know her better. You can also find her at Amazon, or her own website.

Next musings: BestSelling authors Toby Neal and Seb Kirby on their favorite villains.


Proper Villains, by Helen Hanson



Helen Hanson

Helen Hanson

I love a good caper.  The little green ones I put on swordfish steaks are yummy, but I mean a sting. A scam. A con.  As with the movie, Ocean’s Eleven, it’s sometimes tough not to root for the bad guys.  And I agree with explosives expert, Basher Tarr, portrayed by the mercurial Don Cheadle, who said, “It’ll be nice working with proper villains again.”

To me, a proper villain is painted with as fine a brush as the main character.  He doesn’t think he’s evil but has wants and dreams and objectives that require satisfaction.  Just because Hannibal Lector eats   human livers doesn’t make him ev– well, yes, I guess it does.  But Hannibal isn’t all evil.  He’s well-mannered, intelligent, and funny.  The man knows how to pair the perfect wine with any meal.  Even FBI agent Clarice Starling admired those qualities.

We want nuance in our villains.  Eight feet tall, gaunt with yellowy skin, bearing mismatched body parts like an ’02 Corolla, Frankenstein elicited our sympathy when he rescued the young girl from drowning. A somewhat self-made man, he found books and taught himself to read.  Literacy is a noble ambition esteemed by readers everywhere.  But Frankie was an outlier with no females of his kind within lurching distance.  The Doc promised to dig up some more cadavers and build him a soul-mate.  The big guy just needed some love.  But those pesky villagers with their lit torches refused to chill.

One-dimensional bad guys are dull. So are bad girls.  Fortunately for Harry Potter fans, there are villains aplenty in those tomes.  If they had to rely on Dolores Umbridge alone, they might be disappointed.  Dolores is the quintessential petty bureaucrat taking umbrage at every perceived slight.  Like a volcanic eruption of meanness, the woman spews her bad juju on everyone within reach.  And just what is her damage?  Alas, readers never really find out, but ole J.K. Rowling knows a thing or two about marketing books.  Perhaps a future spin-off series will explain Dolores’ perpetual snit.

Even white whales and great white sharks can satisfy our need for proper villains.  But when that nut-job Ahab started harpooning Moby Dick, I felt a little sorry for ‘ole Mobe–endangered species aside.  The ocean was his turf, and if Ahab’s thrashing around in it, the dude looks like food.  Whales need to eat too.  Besides, that DARKPOOL6X8peg leg gave Ahab some serious street cred.  He should’ve let the matter ride.

That said, the great white shark in Jaws didn’t elicit much sympathy from me.  The fin came looking for trouble.  With several oceans full of fish to choose from, he came knocking on our beaches–during a holiday weekend, no less.  Call PETA.  I don’t care.  Gaff away on that bad boy.  Gaff away.

In the end, proper villains can earn our respect if not our love and trust.  They fuel our heroes to new heights of greatness.  A tension-filled fight pumps the blood of all good fiction, even if the villain ends up on the Captain’s Platter.

Now I’m off to find some lunch.  Suddenly, I’m hungry for chilled sushi and warm sake.

Or, perhaps, a nice Chianti.

§ § § § § § §

Helen Hanson writes thrillers about desperate people with a high-tech bent. Hackers.  The CIA. Industry titans.  Guys on sailboats.  Mobsters. Their personal maelstroms pit them against unrelenting forces willing to kill.

Throughout the journey, they try to find some truth, a little humor, and their humanity – from either end of the trigger.

While Helen writes about the power hungry, she genuinely mistrusts anyone who wants to rule the world.

Helen directed operations for high-tech manufacturers of semiconductors, video games, software, and computers. Her reluctant education behind the Redwood Curtain culminated in a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrated studies in Computer Science.  She also learned to play a mean game of hacky sack.

She is a licensed private pilot with a ticket for single-engine aircraft. Helen and her husband spent their first anniversary with their flight instructor studying for the FAA practical. If you were a passenger on a 737 trying to land at SJC in 1995, she sends her most sincere apologies.


Born in fly-over country, Helen has lived on both coasts, near both borders, and at several locations in between. She lettered in tennis, worked as a machinist, and saw the Clash at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium sometime in the eighties.  She currently lives amid the bricks of Texas with her husband, son, and a dog that composes music with squeaky toys.

If you enjoy her books, please consider writing a review.  If you don’t, please be kind.

Connect with Helen Hanson on Facebook, Twitter, or her blog.


Ever wonder why you really disliked a book, or why, conversely, you loved it so much you never wanted to stop? On Wednesday, February 20, join Shannon Mayer, bestselling author of Priceless to explore how you can be more in touch with what’s happening as you read.